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Barbet Dog Breed

About the Barbet

The Barbet (pronounced bar-bay) is an ancient breed known for its curly coat and affable disposition. Hailing from France, this water dog is easily recognized by its distinctive beard (barbe in French) from which the breed derives its name. While not as widely known in the United States as some other hunting breeds, the Barbet has a storied history. For centuries, it served as a loyal companion by retrieving waterfowl before the invention of the firing arm. The breed’s gentle and playful nature, combined with its intelligence and adaptability, make it a delightful family companion today and an engaging partner in a variety of activities.

AKC Group

AKC Group


Dog Breed Height


19 – 24.5 Inches

Dog Breed Weight


35 – 65 Pounds

Dog Breed Lifespan


12 – 14 Years


Country of Origin France
Bred For Flushing & Retrieving Waterfowl, Companionship
Known For Rustic Appearance, Profuse Coat, Cheerfulness, Intelligence
Popularity Low
Temperament Friendly, Bright, Sweet-Natured
Activities Hunting, Running, Swimming, Conformation Shows, Dog Sports

History of the Barbet

The Barbet’s history is as rich and distinctive as is the breed’s curly coat. This water dog’s roots can be traced back many centuries, with depictions of similar canines appearing in artwork from the 14th century. However, the Barbet, as it is known today has its origins firmly fixed in present-day France.

Initially, the Barbet was a utilitarian dog, prized for its prowess as a waterfowl retriever. French hunters relied on the rough water dog to fetch birds from  swampland and other marshy environments. Its water-resistant, curly coat, combined with its webbed feet, made the Barbet particularly adept for such tasks.

The name Barbet is believed to be derived from the French term barbe, meaning “beard,” a nod to the breed’s characteristic beard-like facial hair. The breed has also played a pivotal role in the development of several other breeds. The Poodle, in particular, owes a significant degree of its lineage to the Barbet.

However, despite its historical significance and early development, the breed has faced the threat of extinction. Following the two World Wars, the breed’s numbers were decimated. Recognizing the breed’s cultural significance and its use in the development of so many other water-loving breeds, dedicated enthusiasts undertook efforts to revive and preserve it.

The modern Barbet remains true to its historical roots, with many of its inherent characteristics, such as its love for water and its affable nature, remaining unchanged. The breed has garnered recognition from various kennel organizations and registries around the world, with the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 2020.

From its beginnings as a trusted hunting partner to its present-day role as a beloved family companion, the breed has stood the test of time, showcasing its resilience, adaptability, and unwavering charm.

General Appearance

Height & Weight

Adult Barbets typically stand between 19 and 24.5 inches tall at the withers.

Mature Barbets generally weigh from 35 to 65 pounds, proportionate to the individual dog’s height.

Proportion & Substance

The Barbet’s physique exudes both strength and elegance. A robust frame, with solid bone and a well-muscled body, appears slightly rectangular in shape. This proportion emphasizes the breed’s historical role as a strong and persistent water dog. Together with the breed’s substantial head, sweeping tail, and graceful movement, the Barbet’s silhouette is fundamental to its usefulness, whether retrieving fallen game or playfully bounding through the yard.

Coat Texture, Colors & Markings

Texture: The dense and curly texture of the Barbet’s coat is a defining breed characteristic. The profuse coat, which sports a distinctive beard, is a reminder of the breed’s centuries-old usefulness as a rough water dog. The hair’s unique texture provides protection from the elements and underscores the breed’s ability to perform well in aquatic environments.

Barbet Colors

Standard Color
Black ee
Brown ee
Fawn ee
Fawn ee
Gray ee
White ee

Barbet Markings

Standard Marking
White Markings ee
Gray Markings ee
Black Markings ee
Brown Markings ee
Fawn Markings ee

A Note About Color: The Barbet may be found in all shades of black, gray, brown, and fawn; with or without white markings. White dogs with colored markings, called pied, are as equally acceptable as the solid-colored dogs.


  • Skull: The skull is broad and slightly convex, giving the head a well-defined and sturdy appearance. The stop is moderate, providing a smooth transition from the skull to the muzzle.
  • Expression: One of the breed’s most endearing qualities is its warm and inviting expression, exuding both intelligence and kindness. This is further accentuated by the tufts of hair that usually fall over the eyes.
  • Eyes: Set rather well apart, the eyes are round and dark, harmoniously blending with the coat’s color. They radiate a lively and attentive look.
  • Ears: The ears are set at eye level and hang flat, framing the face. Their length reaches halfway down the muzzle, and they’re covered with long, dense hair, often with a wavy appearance.
  • Muzzle: The muzzle is strong and broad; square but tapering slightly towards the nose. It is of equal length to the skull, providing a balanced appearance to the head. The planes of the head and muzzle are nearly parallel.
  • Nose: The breed’s nose is broad, with well-open nostrils. Its color complements that of the coat, usually black or brown depending on the dog’s primary coat color and shade.
  • Bite: The Barbet boasts teeth that are large and strong teeth, meeting in a scissors bite. This bite ensures a strong grip, vital for the breed’s role as a waterfowl retriever.

A photo of Barbet's head.


The Barbet’s tail is an extension of both its topline and its character, serving both a functional and an expressive role. Strong at its base, the tail tapers gradually towards the tip. At rest, it hangs down, reaching the hocks or slightly below. During moments of alertness or excitement, the tail may be carried slightly raised, but it rarely curls over the back. The breed’s signature tail emphasizes its water dog lineage, acting as a rudder in fast-running streams and still bodies of water.

The Barbet – What to Consider?

As a breed renowned for its amiable nature and storied past as a waterfowl retriever, the Barbet flourishes when provided with both physical activity and emotional connections. Whether interest in the breed stems from a desire for a loyal companion, a working partner, or an affable show dog, understanding its many unique characteristics will all but assure a mutually fulfilling connection between the Barbet and its family members.

Home Life

Interaction With Family

The level of affection a breed typically shows towards family members and familiar individuals will vary. While some breeds may only show genuine warmth towards their owner, remaining standoffish with strangers, other breeds will treat everyone they meet as if they are their closest friend.
Independent Affectionate

Good With Other Dogs

The innate friendliness of a dog towards other dogs can depend on its breed. Although supervision is always recommended during introductions, certain breeds tend to be inherently more or less sociable with other dogs, whether in a home setting or in public spaces.
Not Recommended Reliable With Other Dogs

Good With Young Children

The degree to which a breed will typically be patient with young children, and its overall suitability as a family member, will vary. It is important to always supervise interactions between dogs and the kids in the house, as well as with children who are not accustomed to being around dogs.
Not Recommended Dependable With Children


Amount Of Shedding

The amount of hair that a dog sheds will typically depend on its breed. Heavy-shedding breeds require more frequent brushing, have a higher chance of activating specific allergies, and often necessitate more frequent use of the vacuum cleaner and lint rollers.
Low High

Frequency Of Grooming

The regularity with which a breed needs bathing, brushing, trimming, or other forms of coat care is an all-important consideration. When evaluating the grooming effort required, consider your available time, patience, and budget. It is important to note that all breeds need routine ear, teeth, and nail care.
Monthly Daily

Amount Of Drooling

The tendency of a breed to drool significantly varies from breed to breed. For those who prefer cleanliness or are particular about keeping things tidy, breeds that are likely to leave trails of drool on your arm or large slobbery marks on your clothing and furniture might not be the best fit.
Low High

Coat Type


Coat Length




Trainability Level

The ease with which a dog can be trained and its eagerness to learn new skills can depend on the breed. Some breeds are naturally inclined to please their owners and will readily accept training, while others tend to follow their own desires, often showing independence in how, when, and where they choose to do things.
Stubborn Eager

Barking Level

The frequency of vocalization, including barking and howling, will vary from breed to breed. Some may bark at each person who passes by and every bird in the sky, while others will typically bark only for a good reason. Additionally, a few breeds that do not typically bark will still be vocal, using different sounds to communicate.
Quiet Vocal

Energy Level

The level of physical exercise and mental engagement required will depend on the breed. High-energy breeds are always on the go. They are enthusiastic about their next activity and tend to be busy most of the time, running, jumping, and playing throughout the day. In contrast, low-energy breeds are akin to couch potatoes, content to just lounge around and take naps throughout the day.
Couch Potato Busybody

Need For Mental Stimulation

The extent of mental stimulation needed to keep a dog content and healthy will vary by breed. Dogs bred for specific purposes may need tasks involving decision-making, problem-solving, and concentration. Without sufficient mental exercise, these dogs can resort to creating their own activities to engage their minds, resulting in unwanted behaviors like chewing, digging, and escaping.
Minimal Engagement Intensive Interaction

Barbet Health

Lifespan: The average lifespan of a Barbet ranges between 12 and 14 years. With optimal care and an active lifestyle, some individuals can even surpass this age range.

Potential Health Risks

While the Barbet is generally considered a healthy breed, like any breed or mixed-breed dog, it can be susceptible to certain health risks. Awareness of these potential issues is key to proactive care and early detection.

  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a condition where a shallow hip socket allows the femoral head to slip out of joint. Dogs may show pain or lameness in one or both rear legs.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia but affecting the front legs, this disease is a developmental anomaly of the elbow joint, typically leading to arthritis and pain.
  • Eyesight Issues: Conditions like Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) can affect the breed. Regular eye exams are recommended.
  • Hypothyroidism: This disorder of the thyroid gland can lead to obesity, lethargy, and skin conditions. It is treatable with medication.
  • Ear Infections: Given the breed’s hanging ears clothed in dense hair, the ears can be prone to infections. Regular cleaning, and monitoring for signs of discomfort, can mitigate this risk.
  • Allergies: Some Barbets can develop skin allergies. It’s essential, therefore, to monitor signs of excessive itching or skin irritations.

Barbet Personality

The Barbet, with its spirited and sensitive nature, exudes warmth, intelligence, and enthusiasm. This breed forms strong bonds with family members and tends to mirror their emotions. Barbets are inherently social creatures, so prolonged isolation doesn’t sit well with them and can sometimes lead to separation anxiety. Their friendly and playful approach to life means they typically enjoy the company of people and other dogs, especially if they’ve been acquainted with them from a young age. Children often find a gentle and patient friend in the Barbet, making the breed a good choice as a family companion. With the right socialization, these dogs will typically extend warm greetings to strangers; however, their inherent loyalty may lead them to approach unfamiliar situations and new people with an appropriate amount of caution. This sensitivity also means the Barbet responds best to gentle training methods that are anchored in encouragement and praise.

Barbet Feeding & Nutrition

As a breed with a rich heritage as a water dog, the Barbet requires a balanced diet to fuel its energy. When considering what to feed a puppy, it’s vital to ensure the food supports the growth phase. A high-quality puppy formula is needed, one that’s rich in essential nutrients, proteins, and fats. Transitioning to adult food usually takes place between 12 to 15 months. The amount of food required can vary based on factors such as age, metabolism, and activity level. On average, the mature Barbet may consume between 2 to 3 cups of quality dry food daily, divided into two meals. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with the dog’s breeder and veterinarian for advice on adjusting portion sizes. Barbets, like all breeds, can be susceptible to obesity if overfed. Monitoring weight gain and ensuring adequate exercise is provided can help with maintaining a healthy weight. Treats, while useful for training, should only be given in moderation.

Barbet Training

Training a Barbet can be a fulfilling experience, given the breed’s innate intelligence and desire to please. While these dogs can be a relatively good choice for novice dog owners, they thrive best when positive reinforcement techniques are used. This breed is not one to react positively to harsh or punitive training methods. Their sensitive nature responds well to praise, treats, and affection, and since they are quick learners, they pick up new commands and tricks with relative ease. However, this intelligence means they can sometimes be a tad stubborn or independent-minded. Consistency is key with training, including managing the breed’s sometimes vocal nature. While not incessantly loud, the Barbet can express itself through vocalizations, especially when it spots something unusual and wants to alert its owner. Early socialization and training a “quiet” command can be helpful.

Barbet Exercise

The Barbet’s usefulness as an active water dog has endowed it with a natural zest for physical activity. It’s therefore important to make sure the dog receives adequate exercise to promote its physical and mental well-being.

Exercise Expectations

Energy Level Moderate to High
Exercise Requirements 2 Hours/Day (Minimum), Daily Walks, Weekly Swimming, Regular Exercise, Playing with Another Dog, Mental Stimulation

Endowed with a moderate-to-high energy level, the Barbet thrives on daily exercise. These dogs will happily participate in most any activity, but brisk walks, games of fetch, and swimming are especially beneficial. The breed’s intensity, while not overwhelming, can sometimes surprise new owners. It’s important, therefore, to incorporate some rigorous exercise each day to help the Barbet expend all of its innate energy. Playfulness is also a defining characteristic of the breed. Whether chasing after a ball, engaging in interactive dog toys, or simply romping around in the yard, these dogs thrive on having fun. Prolonged play sessions, interspersed with short bursts of high-level activity, are excellent for helping a Barbet stay healthy and fit. And given the breed’s intelligent and social nature, regular play sessions can also satisfy the need for mental stimulation and social interaction.

Barbet Grooming

The Barbet boasts a distinctive curly coat that’s both dense and water-resistant, a testament to the breed’s water dog heritage. Grooming is essential, not only for aesthetics but also for the dog’s health and comfort.

Grooming Expectations

Coat Type Black, Brown, Gray and White
Grooming Requirements Weekly Brushing, Occasional Bathing, Routine Ear Cleaning, Periodic Nail Trimming, Regular Tooth Brushing

The texture of a Barbet’s coat can vary. Some dogs have rather loose curls while others possess tighter ringlets. In all cases, regular brushing, at least weekly, is necessary to prevent mats and tangles from forming. Using a pin brush or a slicker brush, combined with a metal comb for the finer areas, can yield the best results. This will ensure the coat remains in optimal condition and is free of mats or debris. The Barbet’s coat doesn’t shed profusely, but it does undergo some hair loss that can go unnoticed. This characteristic can make the breed a favorable option for individuals with mild pet allergies. Bathing is also beneficial, though it’s not a frequent necessity. However, these water-loving dogs do like to get muddy, and when they do, a bath with a gentle shampoo and a thorough blow-dry are needed to prevent any moisture-related skin issues from developing. And like all dogs, Barbets benefit greatly from regular dental care, ear cleaning, and nail trimming.

Living with a Barbet

The Barbet’s social nature means it typically cherishes the company of all members of the family. These dogs thrive best in homes where they are integrated into daily activities, be it lounging on the couch, playing in the yard, or even accompanying the family on local visits to nearby shops and businesses. Known for its sociable and adaptable disposition, the Barbet can be an ideal companion for active people. For those living in apartments, the breed’s moderate size and generally calm demeanor indoors can be a plus; however, access to a yard or open space is essential. The breed’s history as a water dog means these purebreds are quite fond of wet environments and even enjoy romping in the snow. However, prolonged exposure to extreme cold should be avoided. On the flip side, the breed’s thick coat can make these dogs more susceptible to overheating. Caution is advised during warm spells, and it’s essential to always provide access to plenty of shade and fresh drinking water during peak summer temperatures.

Barbet Puppies

Barbet puppies, with their soft curls and curious eyes, are undeniably appealing. As with all puppies, however, the early stages of life are crucial in shaping good behavior, overall health, and a general sense of well-being. While they are bundles of joy, these babies do come with their own set of responsibilities.

Caring for a Barbet Puppy

The arrival of a Barbet puppy is the beginning of an adventure that’s filled with many rewards and a few challenges. During the pup’s first year, careful management is required to promote good health and good manners. Proper nutrition is essential at this time, so feeding a balanced diet that’s recommended by the breeder or a veterinarian is important. As the puppy starts exploring its new world, early socialization becomes a cornerstone of its development. Regular outings, whether playdates with other puppies or just casual strolls around the neighborhood, are enormously beneficial. Puppy training classes can also be a great way to introduce a Barbet puppy to new and different situations, and positive methods will typically lead to an enthusiastic learner. Play sessions are important too, as they allow the pup to expend its considerable energy. However, overexertion can strain developing bones and joints, so moderation is key. And regular grooming and wellness exams will help the puppy to become comfortable with these routine appointments. They will not only allow the Barbet to look and feel its best, they can also ensure a lifetime of stress-free experiences.

Barbet Activities & Dog Sports

The Barbet is a versatile breed known for its intelligence, responsiveness, and adaptability. Over the years, many individuals have successfully participated in a variety of activities and dog sports that underscore the breed’s multifaceted capabilities.

  • Hunting & Water Retrieval: Tracing back to its historical roots, the Barbet was used for waterfowl retrieving. Even today, many are trained for water retrieval activities. Their dense coat and webbed feet ensure they excel in aquatic settings, while their keen sense of smell and natural retrieving instincts bolster their efficiency.
  • Agility: Agility Trials challenge a dog to traverse a timed obstacle course. The Barbet’s nimbleness, paired with its fervor and trainability, allows the breed to stand out in such events.
  • Obedience Trials: With their notable intelligence and genuine desire to please, Barbets can shine in Obedience Trials. These events gauge a dog’s capacity to heed a range of commands, spotlighting both the dog’s training and the handler’s expertise.
  • Dock Diving: As an aquatic sport, Dock Diving prompts dogs to leap from a dock into a pool of water. Given the Barbet’s affinity for water and its robust physique, this activity can be an ideal recreation.
  • Therapy & Service Roles: The Barbet’s kindly demeanor and intuitive nature are perfectly suited for work as a Therapy Dog. The breed’s cognitive prowess and trainability can also be suitable for training as a Service Dog.

Group Classification & Standards

The Barbet is recognized by the world’s leading registries and kennel organizations, which categorize the breed into a specific Group based on its unique characteristics. This breed is recognized worldwide under the following Group designations:

International Organizations

Organization Group Designation
AKC (American Kennel Club) Sporting
UKC (United Kennel Club) Gun Dog
CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) Sporting Dogs
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) Not Recognized
RKC (The Royal Kennel Club) Gundog
FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) Group 8 – Retrievers, Flushing Dogs, Water Dogs; Section 3 – Water Dogs

The ideal Barbet is described by a Breed Standard that is approved by each of the world’s leading registries and kennel organizations. The Breed Standards for this breed may be found in the following links:

Breed Standards

Organization Breed Standard
American Kennel Club AKC Barbet Breed Standard
United Kennel Club UKC Barbet Breed Standard
Canadian Kennel Club CKC Barbet Breed Standard
Australian National Kennel Council Not Recognized
The Royal Kennel Club RKC Barbet Breed Standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale FCI Barbet Breed Standard

Barbet Breed Clubs

In the United States, the Barbet Club of America is the primary organization devoted to the breed. Established to foster and promote the interest of Barbets throughout the country, this AKC parent club provides breed-specific education and hosts a variety of regional and national events .

In Canada, the Barbet Club of Canada stands as a vital organization dedicated to this French breed. The organization’s members uphold ethical breeding practices, emphasize educational efforts, and host activities that showcase the breed’s many unique characteristics.

In the United Kingdom, the Barbet Club UK is the primary hub for enthusiasts of the breed. This club has significantly contributed to increasing breed awareness by coordinating breed-specific events and building a national community for Barbet lovers.

Barbet Rescue Groups

In the United States, the Barbet Club of America is available to assist any Barbet in need. The organization’s members not only facilitate adoptions but also provide resources on the breed and assistance to adoptive families.

In Canada, rescue groups and Barbet Club of Canada work tirelessly to ensure any dog in distress is taken care of and provided with a new, loving home. The groups’ also run awareness campaigns to educate potential dog owners about the breed’s specific needs.

The United Kingdom too boasts a number of organizations focused on the welfare of Barbets. These groups aim to connect dogs in need with suitable families and also serve as platforms for breed enthusiasts to share advice, resources, and experiences.

Barbet Facts

  • Historical Roots: The Barbet is believed to have originated in France, with some claiming the breed can trace its lineage back to North African or Middle Eastern water dogs. Its name is derived from the French word barbe, meaning “beard,” referencing the profuse facial hair on the breed’s muzzle and lower jaw.
  • A Linguistic Legacy: The term “barbichon,” which includes breeds like the Bichon Frise, has its roots in the Barbet’s name. It word indicates the breed’s foundational role in the development of other breeds.
  • Versatility in the Field: Historically, the Barbet was known for its skill as a waterfowl retriever. Its dense, curly coat was perfectly suited to work in the water, providing insulation and protection.
  • Rare but Reviving: At one point in history, especially post-World War II, the Barbet’s numbers dwindled to a dangerous low. However, dedicated breeders worked hard to revive the breed.
  • A Calming Companion: The Barbet’s gentle and affable demeanor has made it not just a preferred companion in homes but also a good candidate for therapy roles in hospitals and care centers.
  • A Natural Swimmer: Given its historical role as a waterfowl retriever, the Barbet is a natural swimmer. It’s not just the coat that aids in this but also the breed’s webbed toes, which act like flippers.
  • Low Shedding: While no breed is entirely hypoallergenic, the Barbet’s unique coat sheds less than many other breeds, making it a consideration as a companion for people with mild allergies.
  • Global Recognition: Though originating in France, the Barbet’s appeal is global. The breed is recognized by major kennel clubs today, which is a testament to its enduring charm.
  • A Slow Grower: Unlike some breeds that reach maturity in just a year, the Barbet takes its time and may need from 2 to 3 years to fully mature—both in size and temperament.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are Barbets hypoallergenic?

While no dog is completely hypoallergenic, the Barbet is often recommended for people with mild allergies due to the breed’s curly hair. However, it’s essential for potential owners with allergies to spend time with a Barbet beforehand to ensure they don’t exhibit any reactions.

Do Barbets shed?

Barbets possess a curly coat that sheds minimally in comparison to other breeds. However, it’s worth noting that all dogs (except hairless breeds) will shed to some extent, and the Barbet is no exception. Regular grooming can help to manage and minimize the amount of loose hair and prevent matting.

Are Barbets good family dogs?

Barbets are known for their gentle and friendly temperament, making them excellent companions for many families. These dogs bond closely and often exhibit a playful nature, especially with children. With proper socialization, they also tend to get along well with other animals in the household.

Can Barbets be white?

Barbets can sport a variety of coat colors, with or without white. However, it’s worth mentioning that the presence of other colors or markings can create a variety of parti-color patterns. Always consult with a reputable breeder for specifics on coat colors and their inheritance.

How much do Barbets weigh?

Barbets typically fall within the weight range of 35 to 65 pounds, depending on factors such as gender, diet, and overall health. Proper nutrition and regular check-ups can ensure a Barbet maintains a healthy weight.

Can a Barbet be left home alone all day?

Barbets, being sociable and affectionate dogs, thrive best when they have regular interaction with their favorite people. Leaving a Barbet alone for prolonged periods can lead to feelings of loneliness and even result in behavioral issues.

Are Barbets high or low maintenance?

Grooming-wise, Barbets lean towards being medium-to-high maintenance due to their long, curly hair. Beyond grooming, their affectionate and placid temperament often makes this breed easy to live with. Regular exercise and mental stimulation, however, are vital for the dog’s well-being.

Do Barbets bark a lot?

Barbets may bark to alert their owners to unfamiliar sounds or intruders; however, they aren’t known to be incessant barkers. With consistent training and early socialization, any tendency to bark excessively can usually be managed effectively.

Are Barbets aggressive?

Barbets are generally not aggressive at all. In fact, they are known for their friendly and sociable nature, often getting along well with both people and other animals. However, as with any dog, early socialization and positive training are essential to ensure a well-behaved and well-adjusted canine companion.

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The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin?

Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral Program, which is listed on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.

Find a Barbet Puppy
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